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A group of Palestinians and human rights organisations on Monday filed a complaint in federal court against US President Joe Biden for allegedly failing to prevent what the plaintiffs described as a “genocide” in Gaza.
The legal complaint takes aim at the President, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin for not curbing Israel's military operations in Gaza.
It also seeks an emergency injunction to halt continuing US military and diplomatic support to Israel while the lawsuit is being reviewed.
Washington has a long-standing relationship with Israel and the country receives the highest amount of regular US military aid.
The complaint also seeks an order for the US not to obstruct international efforts to demand a ceasefire at the UN and end the siege on Gaza. Mr Biden continues to reject calls for a ceasefire, and the US has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution seeking to curtail the bombardment.
“For the last five weeks, President Biden and secretaries Blinken and Austin have stood shoulder to shoulder with an Israeli government that has made clear its intention to destroy the Palestinian population in Gaza,” Katherine Gallagher, a lawyer at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said in a statement.
Israel has been carrying out a military offensive in the Palestinian enclave since Hamas militants killed at least 1,200 people and took 240 hostage in an attack on October 7.
Local officials say about 11,200 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip amid Israel's counter-attack.
The US has “continued to provide both military and political support for Israel’s unfolding genocidal campaign while imposing no red lines”, Ms Gallagher said.
Mr Biden and the White House said it would not be “drawing red lines” as it has “rock-solid and unwavering” support for Israel. The President has said he asked Israel “tough questions” and urged them to follow the “rule of law”.
The Centre for Constitutional Rights filed the complaint on behalf of human rights organisations Defence for Children International and Al-Haq, along with several Palestinians.
Omar Al Najjar, who is currently working at the Nasser Medical Centre in Khan Younis, is a plaintiff with two other people also in Gaza. Five US citizens who have family members that have been either “killed, subjected to the closure of Gaza and displaced” are additional plaintiffs.
The complaint points to the US Congress having passed the Genocide Convention Implementation Act after ratifying the convention, requiring the government to prevent acts of genocide.
The plaintiffs accompanied their filing with formal declarations from two expert scholars on the definition of a genocide, and whether it applies to Israel's military operations in Gaza.
“We have lost so many people, but there are still many more who are living and we owe it to them to do everything possible to stop this genocide,” plaintiff Mohammad Herzallah, who has family in Gaza, said in a press release.